Saturday, April 21, 2012

And The Sinner Is...

Wo'C Correspondent Keith alerted me that the results are in for that Worst Movie Ever poll we talked about here, and the winner, as he more or less predicted, is...Battlefield Earth!  So I apologize for recycling yet another piece from Better Living Through Bad Movies, but the temptation -- let alone the synchronicity -- is simply too great to resist.  So here's our exegesis of L. Ron Hubbard's magnum opus, along with a few life lessons we picked up along the way.
Battlefield Earth (2000)
Directed by Roger Christian
Written by L. Ron Hubbard (novel), Corey Mandell and J.D. Shapiro

A crawl informs us that it’s the Year 3000, and for the past thousand years, Earth has been ruled by the "Psychlos." How did such an advanced race of space-faring beings wind up with such a stupid name? Well, they’re obviously a nutty bunch, judging by John Travolta’s performance, and they seem to have wiped out every trailer park on the planet, so I’m guessing that author and Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard just combined the words “psycho” and “cyclone.” Anyway, they’re big-assed aliens from a planet where George Clinton is the dominant life form.

The Psychlos have spent the past millennium prospecting for gold, so I assume that when not invading other planets and committing genocide, they act as the Gabby Hayes-like comic relief to an alien species that resembles Roy Rogers or Hoot Gibson.

Meanwhile, humans (represented by pasty white people dressed like Vikings) are confined to pockets of wasteland, where they are rapidly becoming extinct—so I guess all those dead 19th century Indians are having a bit of a laugh. Just so we get the point, the director pans the pristine, snow-capped Rocky Mountains (giving us a glimmer of hope that even in the bleak, post-apocalyptic future, there will still be beer commercials) and a subtitle reads: “Man is an endangered species.” Despite this, the Bush Administration still wants to drill in the Arctic National Man Refuge.

The survivors of humanity have adopted the usual trappings of barbarism—furs and buckskin clothing, polytheism, and French braids. One courageous lad (Barry Pepper) defies the anger of the gods and boldly ventures forth alone to find his destiny. Within thirty seconds he gets thrown from his horse, and panicked by a miniature golf course. Fortunately, he runs into a pair of hunters, and offers them snacks in exchange for exposition.

They take shelter in the Apocalypse Galleria and huddle around a cook fire. But one of the Psychlos turns out to be a mall walker, and he takes exception to their careless use of an open flame so close to Lane Bryant. The alien stuns the two hunters with its ray gun, but Barry is too fast for it, perhaps because the alien isn’t entirely at ease clomping around in Gene Simmons’ platform boots from

Eventually, Barry and the hunters are put in a cage built into the belly of an alien jet. Yes, even though it’s a thousand years in the future, and the aliens can instantly teleport across the galaxy, they still use internal combustion engines. Suck it, Al Gore!

The jet flies to the Psychlo’s capital, Biosphere 2. The humans are issued those little anti-snoring patches for their noses, which somehow helps them to survive the extraterrestrial environment inside the dome. But it’s not only the air that’s different; the entire domed city is perpetually bathed in a dim blue glow, suggesting the Psychlos can only exist in the atmosphere of a soft-core porn film.

The jet lands at the “Human Processing Center—Denver,” and we look forward to watching Barry get rendered into a form of alien Velveeta. Instead, he startles his captors by shooting one of the Psychlos with its own gun, and making a break for it. But he immediately slips and falls, for along with man’s loss of art, science, and medicine, he has also forgotten the ancient admonition not to run on the linoleum in your socks.

Barry slides to a stop at the platformed feet of Psychlos John Travolta and Forrest Whittaker, who were in the middle of discussing how beeswax will help to keep the fuzz down on your dreadlocks.

Travolta, it seems, has fallen from favor with the Home Office, and has been condemned to serve as security chief of Earth for another 50 years. All the other Psychlos laugh at John, except for his immediate supervisor, who’s too busy cultivating the largest dewlap in the galaxy.

Cut to Planet Psychlo. It’s a grim, inhospitable world; a dark urban landscape stretches to the horizon, studded with towers belching fire and pollution into the perpetual twilight of a purple sky, and inhabited by cruel beings thirsting for wealth and power. So basically, it’s Houston.

Cut right back to Earth, where John is getting drunk and working himself into a thick, creamy lather of overacting, which is later harvested, and dispensed as food to the humans with the help of a sour cream gun from Taco Bell.

John plans to buy his way off the planet by secretly training “man-animals” to mine a newly discovered vein of gold. First, however, he sets the humans to remodeling his office with pickaxes. But Barry, who is evolving faster than the apes in 2001, turns on John’s stereo and boldly messes with his equalizer settings.

The outraged Travolta immediately straps Barry into a dentist’s chair and has a Portuguese Man O’ War teach him Conversational Psychlo. Then they shoot some pollen in his eye, and suddenly, he’s The Computer Wore Moccasins.

John, realizing that Reading Is Fundamental, takes Barry on a field trip to the Denver Library, and tells him that “Man is an endangered species,” because Barry was ignorant when the film began, and couldn’t read the opening titles.

Later, John hauls Barry and his friends out to the forest, and proves his technological superiority by shooting the legs off a cow. Just as he’s about to win the plush toy, he’s jumped by a feral tribe wearing fox pelts on their heads, which menace him with spears. John miraculously escapes, however, when the tribe itself is attacked by PETA.

Suddenly, Forrest arrives with Barry’s girlfriend, who they’ve identified because she was carrying a chamois with a face scratched into it. The image looks remarkably like one of Red Skelton’s clown paintings, so the Psychlos immediately deduce that it must be Barry. The Girlfriend is then accessorized with the latest in explosive collars.

Back at Biosphere II, John sexually harasses his new secretary, giving us the opportunity to see that female Psychlos have prehensile tongues and male pattern baldness, and, one would assume, an escort service that does pretty well when the House Republican Caucus is in town.

Suddenly, Travolta discovers that governor Dewlap has been skimming profits, and threatens to report him to the Nevada Gaming Commission unless he does something about that Elizabethan ruffle of loose skin hanging from his neck.

Cut to the Rockies, where Travolta orders Barry (who has now gotten his alien jet learner's permit) to fly the human miners up to the gold vein, since the thin atmosphere at high altitudes doesn’t supply enough oxygen to support the Psychlo’s spittle-flecked, mouth-breathing acting style.

Instead, Barry flies to Ft. Hood, where the illiterate, spear-wielding fox-head guys learn how to pilot F-16s by playing Asteroids, while Barry watches that How to Assemble an Atomic Bomb film strip  they always used to make us watch on rainy days in junior high. Then they fly to Kentucky and rob Ft. Knox in a scene that’s not exactly the climax of Goldfinger.

Later, Barry manages to sow doubt and distrust between Forrest and Travolta, with the result that John decapitates a bartender, and shoots off Forrest’s hand.  Forrest looks confused, and considers reporting John to the EEOC for creating a hostile work environment.

Barry riles up all the human prisoners in the Planet of the Apes Memorial Cellblock, and sparks a revolt, but it doesn’t go very well. Just in the nick of time, however, the tribe of primitive hunter-gatherers arrive, flying jet fighters which are in perfect working condition after a thousand years of neglect. But let my car sit for more than a week, and I can just forget about getting it started again without begging one of the neighbors for a jump. Anyway, a bunch of illiterate, lice-ridden, half-naked savages suddenly turn into Top Gun fighter jocks after one trip to the Drivers Ed simulator and start shooting down the technologically advanced Psychlos, proving that Scientology really does work wonders.

The humans blow up Biosphere 2. Then Barry uses his girlfriend’s explosive collar to blow off Travolta’s right arm, in a ruthless act of attempted irony.

Meanwhile, one of Barry’s posse teleports to the Planet Psychlo with an atomic weapon. This is where the aliens really pay for basing their entire economy on the petrochemical industry, since the bomb causes their atmosphere to catch on fire.

And even though the film isn’t explicit about this, we sense that as every living thing on the surface of the planet is incinerated, certain cashiered whistleblowers from the Psychlo EPA enjoy a moment of smug vindication.

So what new truths have we gleaned from Battlefield Earth? Basically, if you're looking for a weird, nerdy religion with a scripture based on classic sci-fi themes like time travel, teleportation, and strange alien worlds, then you might as well just join the Mormons.  At least they don't make crappy action movies, and if you're an attractive young woman, you're much less likely to be selected by church elders as the host organism for Tom Cruises' next baster baby.


Stacia said...

I was going to rant a bit (or whine, whatever) that I missed that vote post, but then I realized I would have voted for BFE anyway, so it's all good.

Watched the whole thing, start to finish, many years ago. I kept waiting for Jack Deth to show up and start complaining about all the squids.

Also, I will never eat at Taco Bell again, thankyouverymuch.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I watched all of Manos: The Hands of Fate on youtube, but I don't think I could get through this.

Woodrowfan said...

you want scary? Consider this: the Scientologists think the guy who wrote this dreck is history's greatest genius!

Anntichrist S. Coulter said...

Yeah, Woodrow, we kinda got that, honey. They're dangerously-wealthy, flaming-fucking-fucktard IDIOTS with WAY the fuck more money than sense, and the unearned egos to USE IT. (The money-as-political-power bit, not the lack-of-common-sense to pour piss out of a boot with the instructions printed on the sole and the toe & heel cut out...)

BTW, how stupid is spellcheck? How can even MOZILLA folk think that I meant "BUCKBOARD" when I type "FUCKTARD"?!?!?!

Anyway, Scott, you deserve some kind of medal of honor, to have endured this brain-damaging dreck and survived intact, or at least MOSTLY intact... Didja ever think that maybe all of these years of ingesting all of this horribly-cruel moron-vomit has been sapping you of spinal fluid or somesuch? Maybe adding radioactive Psychlo drool (I, too, will never forgive you for ruining tacos for me, too!!! No bisexual jokes, please...) to your spine without your even being aware of the osmosis/mitosis/what-the-fuck-ever??? What if you wind-up TALKING to one of them WITHOUT having your entire brain roll its eyes the entire time??? They ARE contagious, are they not? At least, during/after Katrina, their "lay ministers" (write yer own punchlines) seemed to be spreading STOOPIDITY faster than the rampant avalanches of petshit @ the emergency animal shelter/hospital @ LSU!!!

Please, though, somebody tell me, while I still have internet (once again, AT&T/Bellsucks is trying to fuck me over, and I may be without innernet for a bit, though I *will* hit the HO-mail from teh liberry!) --- that Forrest just REALLY, *REALLY* FUCKING NEEDED THE MONEY, and that he's NOT ONE OF THEM?!?!?!

Chris Vosburg said...

The IMDB bio page for Director Roger Christian leads with:

Academy Award winner Roger Christian has had an extensive film career.

Uh, yeah. Anybody wanna guess who wrote it?

Chris Vosburg said...

In defense of old brother Hubbard, I gotta say that before he went batshit (and took a lot of other SF writers with him) into the "Dianetics" thing, he was actually a fairly solid SF writer.

Believe it or not, the guy could write, and I read several of his short stories in the pulps when I was a kid.

I try to remember him for this instead of the ridiculous thing he became. Kinda like Beverly Garland in "The Aligator People" when she meets up with her husband at last, who has become, well, see movie title.

acrannymint said...

I watched all of Manos: The Hands of Fate on youtube, but I don't think I could get through this.
You have to watch The MS3TK version

acrannymint said...

Manos starts @ the 6:20 mark on part 2

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I gotta side with Chris here, BFE while weighty, was a decent skiffy pulp-style yarn, in which the oddball aspects of the movie were somewhat more rational. I wouldn't call it wa work of genius, though.

Mission:Earth, however, went on about 12 volumes too long.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

acrannymint, I saw the MST3K episode before bracing myself for the entire thing.

Carl said...

then you might as well just join the Mormons. At least they don't make crappy action movies


Anonymous said...

Might I suggest that you watch & review "Save the Green Planet" ?

Keith said...

If anyone wants to forward a copy of "Mega-Shark vs. Giant Octopus" or provide a link where it can be viewed for free, please do. Saw the trailer. It needs a review worthy of w-o'c, or if there is something crappier out there you might suggest, please let me know.

I promised Scott a review of "Can't Stop The Music" (Village People). But my home-taped VHS copy would not track properly. So you can stop the music, as well as the picture. Quite an achievement.

Contact Scott for details.


Stacia said...

Keith, I'm sending Scott an email right now.